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Full text of "The dignity, power, and responsibility of organized labor : Labor Day address, Greensboro, N.C., September 4, 1905"

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Power and 

of J&J& 

Organized Labor 

Labor Day Address 


Greensboro* N. C. 

September 4» 1905 

Greensboro, K". C, Sept. 4. — The Labor Day Celebration 
and parade here to-day was the most successful ever held. 
Floats representing every class of trade and industry paraded 
the streets until 11* o'clock, hundreds of representatives of 
labor unions, appropriately costumed, marched in procession. 
Large crowds of home people and visitors witnessed the im- 
posing spectacle. After this there was a grand concert at the 
city hall. 

At 2 o'clock the Grand Opera House was packed with 
people to hear the speeches. Rev. Dr. H. W. Battle opened 
with prayer and was followed by an address of welcome from 
Mayor Thomas J. Murphy. Mr. W. E. Faison, of Raleigh, 
then delivered an admirable address on the dignity, the 
power, the responsibility of organized labor, which was fre- 
quently applauded and has been highly complimented. After 
a short and eloquent address from Mr. A. W. Cooke, the 
meeting closed with an invocation from the chaplain, Dr. 
Battle. — Special to Raleigh (1ST. C.) News and Observer. 




Mr. Chairman, Fellow Unionists, Ladies and Gentlemen: 

In appearing on this platform to-day as a speaker, I can 
not say that I am very glad to be here. Not that I feel no 
interest in the cause for which this day is set apart and 
celebrated, nor yet because I am not in full sympathy with 
everything that tends to advance the cause of the wage- 
earner, and more especially the cause of organized labor. But 
the reason lies in the fact that I am not a public speaker 
by training, and on an occasion like the present I greatly 
fear I shall be unable to properly present to this audience 
those things for which organized labor stands, and those 
things, too, which it opposes. 

Organized Labor Misunderstood. 
Were I speaking to an assembly of working men it would 
be unnecessary to explain many things, or so much as men- 
tion others, that before an audience like this must be thor- 
oughly discussed. For it has been my observation and ex- 
perience during the fifteen years that I have carried the 
working card of the Typographical Union, that there is no 
other subject of which the general public is so densely ig- 
norant as that of organized labor. And so to-day it will be 
my object to make clear to you, as best I can, what trades 
^ unions are not, as well as what they are. 

Labor Humanity's Heritage. 
You have all listened to the orator as he eloquently por- 
trayed the picture of the boy born in poverty and at the 
very bottom of the ladder, and yet fired with an ambition 
to attain unto greater things in life, sets his foot upon the 
bottom rung of the ladder of fame, performs the most menial 
tasks of labor as if in their performance he found his great- 
est joy. Slowly, yet surely, he ascends rung after rung, mas- 
ters a trade in half the time required by his ambitionless 
brother-worker, and before a weaker vessel would have gotten 
his bearings as a mechanic, we find this prodigy mastering 
a profession— and behold he has scaled the topmost rung 
of the ladder of fame! 

You have all heard this beautiful story, usually rehearsed 
on occasions like the present, and always to gatherings of 
working people. And so often have you seen this youth, in 
your mind's eye, as he has been presented from time immem- 
orial in the beautiful word-painting of the orator, that doubt- 
less many of you have come to believe that he actually exists 
in flesh and blood. He may ; but it has never been my privi- 
lege to meet him. 

I would not say one word to-day that might dampen the 
ardor of youth in the God-given aspiration to attain unto 
better things in this life. I would place no stumbling-block 
in the path of the toiler in his struggles with poverty, 
buoyed up by the hope of one day reaching the goal of his 
ambition — a life of ease and plenty after years of toil and 
privation. I am a firm believer in the maxim, "there's al- 
ways room at the top" ; and the addition to this maxim, made 
by a latter-day philosopher, that "the top is about the only 
place where there is any room," is equally true. 

Men have risen from the ranks of the low and humble 
to prominence in the world. Men have gone out from the 
trades into the professions and achieved success. But these 
are the exceptions which only prove the rule. 

And this brings me to the point which I desire to impress 
upon yon to-day — a truth that no amount of sophistry can 
change. Pleasing it may not be, and yet it were well that we 
appreciate its significance. It is this : That from the beginning 
of time until this day — and until time shall be no more — 
the great mass of humanity must eat their bread by the 
sweat of their face, under the edict of Almighty God. And 
of all the forces at work in the world to-day organized labor 
is the one agency that has accomplished most for the amelio- 
ration of the material condition of the toilers. 

Organized Labor Protects the Individual. 

f Organized labor means for the worker shorter hours, 
larger pay, better conditions, and greater independence. 

But we are told that labor unions destroy one's individual- 
ity, and our pretended friends preach "individualism," and 

| endeavor to show us the beauties of individual contracts and 

\ the folly of paying money into the union to be squandered 
by venal leaders. 

y I am here to tell you, my friends, that organized labor is 
conducive to the highest type of individualism. If the in- 

I dividualism they preach is so great a virtue, why is it that 
our advisers along this line fail to put it into practice ? Why 
is it that the great evangel of individualism, one David M. 
Parry, finds it necessary to organize his forces ? How is it 
that we find him to-day the president of an organization 
whose sole object is the destruction of organized labor? 
' Organized labor stands for the man, and it does more — ■ 
it protects him. It is one of the stock arguments of the 
enemies of organized labor, that in our scales of prices we 
force better workmen to accept the same wage as the less 
skilled. And this charge is on a par with the majority of 
the arguments made against organized labor. On the con- 
trary organized labor fixes the minimum and never the maxi- 
mum wage. I do not know how it is in Greensboro, but in 

my own trade in Raleigh the larger per cent work at a 
wage in excess of the scale of prices as prescribed by the 

Labor Leaders are not Corrupt. 

Another constant charge of the enemies of organized labor 
is that our leaders are corrupt. I have the honor to know 
personally the great labor leaders of this country — Sam 
Gompers, John Mitchell, James Duncan, Frank Morrison, 
James Lynch, and a score of others, and I stand here to-day 
and defy any man to produce their superiors from any 
walk of life. "No, my friends, if any cause ever had faith- 
ful, self-sacrificing, honest, fearless leaders our cause has 
them to-day, and has had them in the past, or we would 
never have attained unto the position we occupy to-day 
against the combined opposition of the forces that make 
for human slavery. 

But some one asks, "How about Sam Parks?" Only a 
few months ago Sam was in the lime-light, every paper in 
the country featured Sam with great scare-heads, and held 
him up as an awful example of the effect of organized 
labor and as a sample of labor leaders. You all recall Sam — 
but can you mention a single other ? I can not, though I do 
not doubt in the least there are many others. The truth is, 
organized labor has not yet made any claim to perfection or 
infallibility, and as long as men are human we shall expect 
to find sinners even in the "amen corners" of our churches. 
But what great crime did Sam Parks commit? They 
charged him with accepting a bribe, and sentenced him to 
jail. What became of the bribe-giver ? I presume he is still 
engaged in the laudable endeavor of crushing out organized 

A gentleman over in Milwaukee the other day stole some- 
thing like two millions of dollars — and he was actually the 
president of the national union of bankers of America. It 

was an awful crime for Sam Parks, a "walking delegate" of 
a labor union, to accept a bribe of a few hundred dollars, 
tendered by a wealthy employer, and the press of the coun- 
try and the enemies of organized labor rolled it as a sweet 
morsel under their tongues, and organized labor was held 
up to ridicule. The bank president walks off with millions, 
and no one has yet made it a charge against the bankers' as- 
sociation. I take it there are about as many labor union offi- 
cials in North Carolina as there are bank officials. How 
many bank officials can you recall having gone wrong in 
North Carolina during the past few years ? When you have 
figured that out, then try to recall the number of union offi- 
cials that have gone wrong in the same period of time. 

Organization the Order of the Day. 

Only a few years ago, and organized labor was practically 
1 unknown in North Carolina. To-day we find the leading 
/ trades organized in the cities and larger towns, and the work 
I has but commenced. The day has happily passed when any 
one questions the right of labor to organize, although I can 
J well remember, as doubtless can many before me to-day, the 
time when it was necessary that we defend even our right 
to organize. To-day is a day of organization, and the man 
who is a skilled mechanic and yet refuses to align himself 
with his fellows in their efforts to better his and their con- 
dition is a traitor, and deserves what he generally receives 
at the hands of organized workers. 

The Strike Labor's Last Resort. 

But you ask: "How about strikes?" I believe in strikes. 
And I will say further, that no man has any business in the 
ranks of organized labor who is not a firm believer in 
strikes. I am not here to say that there are not ill-advised 
strikes, that there are not strikes where organized labor is in 
the wrong. But I do say, and most emphatically, that there 

are fewer mistakes made by organized labor along this line 
than by the employers. A strike is labor's last resort, and is 
never wholly lost, for if it accomplished nothing more, it was 
a wholesome lesson to capital that labor, however humble, 
was not yet ready to bow in abject servitude. 

Organized Labor Wins Oftener than It Loses. 

How many of you know anything personally about a 
strike, anyhow? Is it not true that all the information you 
have about strikes is that gathered from the press reports? 
Now let me give you a new standard by which to measure 
the enormity of the crimes committed by organized labor as 
reported by the press. Did you ever seen the pictures that 
are used in a moving-picture machine ? Then have you seen 
these same pictures flashed on the canvas enlarged to more 
than life-size? The picture goes into the machine only a 
few inches in diameter — it appears on the canvas ten feet 
high ! The picture as it goes into the machine is the strike 
as it really is ; the picture as it appears on the canvas, en- 
larged an hundredfold, is the strike as it is portrayed in 
the press of the country. 

The statistics as gathered by the Departments of Labor of 
the several States, those wonderful institutions usually pre- 
sided over by one-horse politicians whose every thought is 
inimical to the interests of organized labor, actually show 
that more than fifty per cent of the strikes in this country 
are won by organized labor! But the fact is that more 
than seventy-five per cent are won by us. Granting, how- 
ever, that we only succeed against the combinations of capi- 
tal, the unfriendliness of the press, and in many instances 
the bitter opposition of the church, in a little more than half 
of our fights for better conditions, is it not a record of which 
we can justly feel proud ? 


Labor's Greater Conquests. 

Our greatest achievements, however, are not the results of 
strikes. We accomplish far more by peaceful methods than 
could possibly be obtained through strife. When the history 
of the great labor movement of to-day is written, it will be 
the record of a peaceful conquest which revolutionized the 
conditions of the toilers, and accomplished stupendous re- 
forms which have blessed mankind, and thus brought us 
nearer the recognition and acceptance of that divine truth — 
"the Fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man." 

And, so, when you come to contemplate what is gained by 
organized labor without recourse to a strike, you will begin 
to appreciate the great work that is being accomplished by 
organized labor, and you will begin to recognize in the men 
who are the leaders in the labor movement a devotion to 
duty and the welfare of their fellow-workers seldom wit- 
nessed among men. To illustrate: When I became a mem- 
ber of Raleigh Typographical Union the minimum scale was 
$14 per week and ten hours per day, and not a half dozen 
men received more than the scale. To-day the minimum 
scale for hand composition is $15 per week and 8 1-4 hours 
(and it will be 8 hours after January 1, 190G), and $1G 
per week for day and $18 for night work, at 8 hours per 
day on machines, and three-fourths at least receive wages in 
excess of the scale. Now, all this was accomplished without 
a strike. Does any sane man believe for a moment that it 
would have been possible to have accomplished this much 
for the printers of Raleigh by any other method than or- 
ganization ? 

The Friend of Every Reform. 

While the primary object of organized labor is, of course, 
the bettering of the condition of its members, yet we stand 
. for other things that are of vital interest to the whole peo- 
ple. Organized labor is a unit for compulsory education, is 


most bitterly opposed to the system of child labor as prac- 
ticed in the mills of the State, is opposed to immigration, and 
is the friend of every reform movement for the uplifting 
of humanity. 

Compulsory Education and Child Labor 

We believe in compulsory education because it means the 
taking of the child out of the mill and giving him a common 
school education, which will prepare him to take his place 
as a citizen and an intelligent worker. 

Child labor in North Carolina must be abolished. Baby 
hands and baby feet are chained and helpless. How long 
shall the cry of the defenseless little toiler be unheard ? The 
forces that make for human slavery — child slavery; that 
would "grind up the seed-corn" ; that would cast a withering 
blight upon the minds and bodies, yea, the very souls of in- 
nocent childhood, and condemn them to a life — short, indeed, 
it will be, but long enough to reap the fearful curse of ig- 
norance, disease and servile dependence, are indeed strong 
in North Carolina — strong enough to control Legislatures, 
to violate their own agreements, and to defy the written law. 
Strong enough, too, to muzzle to a great extent the press, and 
its influence even reaches into the pulpit and finds a de- 

We are irrevocably committed to compulsory education. 
Vote for no man to represent you in the Legislature who 
puts the dollar above the man, and therefore sees no wrong 
in child slavery. 

The leaven has already begun to work. A number of towns 
and cities as well as counties in North Carolina now have com- 
pulsory school laws by special acts of the Legislature. Raleigh 
township, in which is located the capital of the State, is under 
a compulsory school law, and the day is not far distant when 
we will have a general compulsory school law for the entire 


State, and free text-books for the children too poor to buy 

The Curse of Foreign Immigration. 

Organized labor is opposed to foreign immigration. The 
last Legislature placed its seal of disapproval upon the 
proposition to establish an immigration bureau for North 
Carolina, and it acted most wisely. But there were those 
who were not satisfied with this action of the Legislature, 
and a mighty effort has been and still is being put forth, 
through the State Agricultural Department, to force upon 
the people of North Carolina the criminal hordes of Europe. 
They tell us that they will only secure the desirable classes 
who will work on the farms and make good citizens, and to 
this end they have flooded the State with circulars asking 
the farmers to make application for such labor as they need. 
And after an exhaustive campaign for the past six months, 
the secretary of the department gives out the startling in- 
formation that he has had applications from the entire State 
for fifty immigrants. I presume this order was turned down 
as they only furnish this class of labor in car-load lots. This 
should put an effective quietus on the immigration question 
so far as North Carolina is concerned. But it will not, for 
there are those who seem determined to inject into the purest 
American citizenship in this country to-day, the citizenship 
of a State whose proudest boast should be that only two- 
tenths of one per cent of her entire population is foreign 
born, the deadly virus of an old-world civilization. 

The Cry of Greed. 

The great cry raised by these promoters of immigration 
is the "scarcity of labor." This is the cry of greed. There is 
enough labor in North Carolina to supply all the demand 
that may be created, and if by any possible chance there 
should be a shortage in the labor supply there are thousands 
of American-born citizens willing and anxious to come to 


us. And here we come face to face with the real issue — that 
of wages rather than laborers. A standard of wages that 
makes possible but the bare necessities of life will ever force 
the American citizen to seek other fields of labor. Raise the 
standard of wages to a point where the laborer may enjoy a 
few, at least, of the comforts of life and educate his children, 
and the Old North State will bloom as a rose. Fail in this, 
and we will continue to witness the annual exodus of our 
own people to more fertile fields. 

The Threat of Capital. 

But all this is to be remedied by cheap foreign labor, they 
tell us. Only the other day I read in one of our leading 
dailies an interview with a capitalist, in which he said if 
the time ever came when the mill labor of the State should 
rebel against their long, tedious hours of toil, and their short, 
scanty pay, their places would be immediately filled by 
cheap, foreign labor, as had already been done in the mills 
of New England. It will be a dark day for North Carolina 
when the hordes of cheap foreign labor cross her borders. I 
have seen this class at their best and at their worst in the 
anthracite regions of Pennsylvania, in the manufacturing 
centers of New England and in the slums of our great cities. 
And I say to you to-day, that taking them at their very best, 
their standards of living, to say nothing of the other ele- 
ments to go to make good citizens, are far below that of the 
most illiterate and lowly of our own American-born citizen- 

Degradation, Vice, Treason and Anarchy. 

There is yet another feature of this question that should 
receive the consideration of the "powers that be." We have 
eliminated the negro as a factor in politics; shall we now 
inject into our citizenship the germs of degradation, vice, 
treason and anarchy? 


Little Fear of Foreign Invasion. 

Candidly, I have little fear of the Old North 
State ever being cursed with foreign immigration. 
Those who would make good citizens and whom we would 
they came, and they settle in the great Northwest and Can- 
ada, and not one in 10,000 ever has or will find his way to 
North Carolina. Those we do not want, and please God 
we will not have, come from Southern Europe, and herd amid 
the crime, disease and corruption of our great centers of 
population. We should thank God to-day that we have no 
large cities to draw, as magnets, this "froth of the pit." 

Political Action the Only Remedy. 

And now I come to the discussion of a subject that most 
vitally affects the laboring classes of this State, and especi- 
ally organized labor. For years I have consistently advised 
the workers to steer clear of partisan politics, for this is the 
rock upon which many another reform movement has met 
its doom. But we can not, if we would, longer blind our- 
selves to the fact that in a government like ours, where the 
people are the sovereigns, if we ever hope to bring about the 
reforms for which we stand, we must take a hand in politics. 
Let me give you a few pointers: There are to-day in the 
ranks of organized labor in North Carolina more men by 
far than are to be found in the professions and all the busi- 
ness callings combined. In the ranks of labor, organized and 
unorganized, is the great mass of the citizenship of the State, 
not even exceeded in numbers by the farmer. Now, where 
arejiie at politically? How is this, the largest class of citi- 
zenship in the State, represented in its government? In 
all the varied departments of our State government, among 
the boards of our numerous institutions, from the 
heads of the departments and institutions down to and in- 
cluding the janitors, how is this great class of our citizen- 
ship represented ? By one lone man , B. R. Lacy, the State 


Treasurer. And how did he get there? I will tell you. 
The working people of North Carolina put him there, and 
if they are alive to their interests and would show their 
appreciation of the best friend they have to-day, and the 
only friend they "have at court," they will put him in the 
Governor's chair in 1908. 

The Labor Department a Farce and an Insult. 
There is a department of our State government which was 
created about twenty years ago at the demand of the labor- 
ing classes, that we might have a representative at the seat 
of government, and for the special purpose of bringing about 
the reforms for which we stand. And in all these years who 
have been the men who have presided over the Labor Bu- 
reau of North Carolina ? A lawyer, a school teacher, a 
farmer, and at only one time have we had a representative 
of organized labor as Commissioner, and then in the person 
of Hon. B. R. Lacy. And this department is to-day presided 
over by one unfitted by every possible standard to represent 
the honest toilers of North Carolina, a standing insult to the 
intelligence and integrity of the wage-earners of North Caro- 

What are You Going to do About It? 

What are you going to do about it? With you is the 
power to change the present condition of things. Will you 
do it? Are you satisfied with being so completely ignored 
that but one, single, solitary representative of yours succeeds 
in landing in any place of honor or trust throughout the en- 
tire system of our State government? I think not. 

Some one is going to say, "O, yes, Faison is after a polit- 
ical job." Well, suppose I am. One thing is certain — I 
can never get it under present conditions, and if I get it at 
all it must come through a revolution set on foot by the men 
who do the voting, and therefore have the right to name men 
for the offices. But the truth is, I have held office, and but 

for the fact that the time came when I must either sacrifice 
character or resign, I might be holding one to-day. 


And now, my fellow unionists, in conclusion I want to 
say to you that you represent a great class of the citizen- 
ship of this State — a class which has ever been the bulwark 
of the liberties of the people; a class that in peace and war 
has ever been the strength and support of our government. 
The vast majority of you must ever remain toilers ; few may 
hope to gather great wealth or attain unto positions of power 
and influence. But you have it in your power to make bet- 
ter conditions for those who come after you, by standing 
ilrmly on the platform as enunciated by organized labor. 
Hold sacred your obligations to your brother toilers, assert 
your rights as men — and ever remember that character alone 
is l.'.e supreme test. 



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